Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dolphins of East Belgium/Edgar Wappenhalter – Split [Cauliflower Dreams]/Benjamin Franklin – Takes Time [Dreamtime Taped Sounds]

The Bread & Animals label has been one of my favorites for some time, both for the ‘out there’ but consistently awesome jams and its KILLER aesthetic, both in packaging and attitude. Anyhow, these are a couple tapes from the B&A teepee that I’ve been loving for awhile now and my praise is long overdue. Better late than never, right?
It took me what feels like forever to track down this Dolphins of East Belgium/Edgar Wappenhalter tape. I’d finally given up thinking the tape was long gone when I spotted a copy in the Release the Bats distro. When I finally got it I was not disappointed. Starting with the Edgar side, the guy runs through 12 tracks in what I’d estimate to be twentysomething minutes. I’ll be damned if I can read the scrawled tracklist so I'm just gonna act like the songs have no names. After a short intro piece, the second track is an instant stand out. The track is pretty simple but ragafried; a couple tracks of guitar (and a sitar-like sound that may just be guitar) and excellent hand drum accompaniment. It sounds a tad like some GHQ stuff but less brooding and more percussion oriented. It’s a real lo-fi zoner. Things get weirder with a brief interlude of moaning, intertwined vocal loops. A few rather beautiful tracks follow; the first is short and sung by a female with a somewhat traditional folk vibe. The other features vocals so ghostly, I second guess whether I’m hearing them at all. It’s reminiscent of Grouper’s LP from earlier this year and is much too short. Elsewhere on the tape are more guitar based instrumentals, sometimes strummed sometimes plucked and one track features those shrill, squirrelly sounds you get when you play with a slide right over the pick ups. The eighth track (I think) sees a return of female vocals as well as percussion. For some reason it reminds me of a medieval folk song or procession, though I can’t figure out why. The piece is not in medieval style or anything like that but it sounds like a wonderful, lost relic. The ninth track is another favorite, with gorgeous melodic interplay between two guitars and wordless vocals. After another guitar rumination, Edgar (I assume) takes the mic for two plaintive acoustic ballads, the first being very rough and rudimentary though affecting while the second is more refined and features a keyboard of some sort providing counter melody. Though I’d never heard of Edgar Wappenhalter before, he is supposedly part of the outstanding Silvester Anfang funeral folk crew, so the greatness of his work here isn’t much of a surprise.
Dolphins of East Belgium is some form of Lieven Martens’ Dolphins into the Future/In the Eye of Vision project which appears to be on the verge of blowing up with a bunch of releases on the way including one on the coveted New Age Cassettes label and a European mini-tour in a month. I’m not sure if there’s any difference between the projects but this tape is Lieven and someone named Wietske Van Gils (who I read somewhere is his girlfriend). Anywayyy, onto the music. The Dolphins side is totally rad; peculiar, hypnotic transmissions composed of looped keyboard, spirit flute and plenty of reverb. Their myspace page claims “THESE ARE NOT SOUNDS CREATED BY OURSELVES. THESE ARE SIMPLY A TRANSCRIPTION OF THE KNOWLEDGE AND WISDOM ABOUT THE PAST AND FUTURE OF EARTH. WE RECIEVE THIS CONTENT THROUGH EMOTIONAL-EMPHATIC CONTACT WITH DOLPHINS. THESE ARE HOLOGRAMS OF BEAUTY AND POSITIVISM.” And you know what? These “holograms” are just dreamy and extraordinary enough for me to believe them. The second piece on here is my favorite it’s a mesmerizing, repetitious, shimmering deep sea keyboard that if I had my way, I’d listen to this baby for days. It is entirely soothing and pure and just… it’s just fucking brilliant! After that (unfortunately) ends, a new piece begins featuring echoing, wandering thumb piano sounds and a low muffled hum akin to a wind’s howl or waves crashing on the beach crossed with an alien spacecraft. It also has a soothing effect though in a different way; there is a lot more open space in the track. A synth, sounding like a slot machine that has permanently hit the jackpot, dominates the next short piece. A mellow J.D. Emmanuel-esque piece follows, its melodic overall but there is a slightly menacing undercurrent. I have no idea how they were able to achieve that effect with their placid palette, but they did anyway and I like it. There is an incredibly brief aquatic outro that I wish had been stretched out about seventy five times longer, and that’s the end of the tape. Both sides are great and cover a broad range of ideas each with relatively limited palettes. I particularly dig the Dolphin’s transmissions but that’s no slag on Edgar’s side. My only bone to pick is a small one—the tape is on a c-90 although there’s probably 40ish minutes of material so it’s kind of annoying to have to fast forward forever after the end of each side to hear the flip.
Next on the list is Takes Time by Benjamin Franklin (who plays in Buffle and R.O.T.) which was one of my favorites to jam in my van over the summer. The tape is one-sided, but there’s still almost thirty minutes of material so I’ll let it slide. The first two pieces “Histori” and “Objecti” are two minute guitar-based pieces. The former is clean toned but rather skronky, Mr. Franklin does a good job imbuing the piece with melodic sensibilities despite its fractured nature. “Objecti” (which appeared on last years Graag Trag Sloow Tape) is an a bit more straightforward strum and jangle affair with a banshee slide guitar bit at the end. It’s much too short. The final two tracks are the real gems here though. “Vlige” (also appeared on Graag Trag) sees a steady echoing guitar joined by totally lush synth cheese. A great job is done creating a nice ambient atmosphere without drenching the whole thing in effects. A beautiful piece and that synth just sounds amazing. The final piece is a live recording titled “17 Min” and I’m sure you can guess why. The track commences rather spaciously with a wandering guitar. Ethereal keyboards join. Until a bit of high-pitched sustained guitar or synth take over. A pretty arpeggio emerges in the hi-end sunbeam until an effected drum machine starts up. The drum machine goes it alone for a little bit until the keyboard comes back the whole jam turns into an urgent space march. Awesome. That section fades and a flighty keyboard bit goes for a little while and Benjamin ends with mellow rumbling akin to the a processed crackling of an endgroove, receiving extended standing ovation-type applause. A really cool tape overall.
Each tape’s packaging must be mentioned as well. The Edgar/Dolphins tape came with two inserts (one with killer drawings of a turtle, a monkey, and dolphins all playing with beachball-type orbs) and the whole thing was wrapped in a piece of fabric and tied with a pipecleaner. The Benjamin Franklin tape comes in a plastic bag, also with two fold out inserts. The cover opens up into a full page with info, drawings of a bear, paper airplanes and lots of dripping pizza. There’s a cool ‘killer whale’ stamp too. The second insert is smaller and features pictures of Benjamin’s crashed car on one side and cute little tiger cubs on the other.
There is no label out there like Bread & Animals, and both these tapes are textbook examples of its eternal coolness. Both these are sold out but if you find them elsewhere I recommend picking them up, I hope to hear more from all these projects in the future. Also keep your eyes and ears locked on B&A, cause they are looking to make the next year worth living with audio and video cassettes by The Eye of Vision, a Tomutonttu 7”, tapes by Orphan Fairytale, Gas Shepherds, Fricara Pacchu, Maths Balance Volumes, Auk Theater, J.D. Emmanuel, etc. LPs by Watersports and IDM THEFT ABLE, a Uton book+3xCD and on and on and on and on. So get yr minds ready.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Auxiliary Out Radio Programme #7 (11/18/07)

“Breathing Your Face” The Skull Defekts Skkull (CD) [Release the Bats, 2007]

“Moths Eat Tope Light” Chora Moist Friends (CD-r) [267 Lattajjaa, 2007]

“So Blind” Dragnet Dragnet (7") [Tuesday Records, 1986]

“Start to Dreaming” Wooden Shjips Loose Lips/Start to Dreaming (7") [Sub Pop, 2007]

“Bobby’s on the Phone” Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti Underground (LP) [Vinyl International, 2007]

“Antihistamiinimatkaaja” Kemialliset Ystävät Alkuhärkä (LP) [Beta-Lactum Ring, 2007]

“Rectums Merging” At Jennie Richie Rectums Merging (LP one-sided) [What We Do Is Secret, 2007]

“Stinking Memory” Brainbombs Stinking Memory (7") [Anthem, 2007]

“Side A” Slasker Risk Triple Jesus (LP) [Kass/Jamps, 2007]

“My Bird is Dead” PWRFL POWER Injured Fruits (CD) [No Label, 2007]

“Little Weeper” Larkin Grimm The Last Tree (CD) [Secret Eye, 2006]

“Marie's Hair” Elephant Micah Frannce (3xCD-r) [Ruralfaune/La Belle Dame Sans Merci, 2007]

“Side A” Widening Horizon Widening Horizon (CS) [Arbor/JK Tapes, 2007]

“Waber Bouncing with Dante Flavour” Cones Ice Skating Elephants (CD-r) [Ikuisuus, 2007]

“Track 2” Edgar Wappenhalter Split with Dolphins of East Belgium (CS) [Cauliflower Dreams, 2007]

mp3: Part 1 Part 2

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Capricorn Wings – Precenc [Abandon Ship]/6majik9 – Sinister Kindness [Abandon Ship]

I noticed that it’s been much too long since Nate Rulli’s Abandon Ship label has graced these pages, so I am here to rectify the situation. Here we have the foreign chapter of the second to last batch on Abandon Ship, tapes by France’s Capricorn Wings and Australia’s 6majik9.
Capricorn Wings is the “more acoustic” alter ego of the French duo Ghost Brâmes. It really doesn’t sound all that acoustic, which I’m actually digging. This hour long tape is a menagerie of accordion, guitars, cymbals, melodica, tape, organ, microphones and 7” vinyl. The first of two side long tracks is “Black Words”. There is a dense, undulating swirl/rumble that is pretty much impossible to sonically decode. You can hear guitars, organ at first and then cymbals jamming over top of the audio jumble. Despite its mellow pace, and the track being nearly 30 minutes in length, it goes by pretty quick. While it’s usually the guitar or cymbals leading the track, I find all the stuff going on lower in the mix to be the most interesting. It morphs so subtly throughout the track, that it’s a rare occasion that you notice it changing. Towards the end there is some totally excellent tambourine/rattle playing that puts the whole thing over the top for me. There are also sweet bassy jellybone organ type sounds as the fellas begin to break down their sound construction. The guitar and organ come back along with an odd swooshing loop for a pretty, extended comedown.
“Green Woods” takes up the span of the second side of the cool green tape. It is a more straightforward, composed piece, with most of the action taking place in the left channel for some reason. There are a couple loops of gleaming organ, delicate guitar accompaniment and tambourine percussion. Like the previous track, there are subtle shifts in sound as the duo slowly adds melodica to the party. At some point a stuttering feedback drone type sound emerges, it sounds like it might be a loop but I’m not sure. It overwhelms the proceedings a bit, unfortunately. It drops out eventually though revealing a very nice bit of interplay between acoustic guitar and something else I can’t put by finger on. The organ (or maybe its accordion) comes back with beautiful sustained tones amidst strange multi-instrument clatter as the track floats away. Overall, the side has some really great moments but doesn’t have the depth of sound that made the first so great. Still a nice piece though.
A while back I was chatting with my friend about Michael Donnelly’s projects, Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood and 6majik9. He said he didn’t care for BotOS but liked 6majik9, I respectfully disagreed telling him that I really like the Sisterhood stuff but had only been occasionally impressed by 6majik9. Which lead me to wonder if it’s one of the things that you have to take sides on (like during the east coast vs. west coast rap war, or something). But in a swift 60 minute kick this tape straightened me out. This might be the best overall 6majik9 release I’ve heard. It has the trademark bizarre, incongruous clatter but in these two ever moving pieces, the arrangements are fleshed out and sound about as coherent as possible which is a good thing. Other than a few vocal moves, the sounds are pleasantly strange. Weird cricket-esque noises, synth sputters, hand percussion and clanging, with my favorite probably being (auto?)harp plucks. Side A, “Sinister Kindness”, midway through has an absolutely great soft groove, based around a mellow guitar line. After a little while, a bit meaner fuzz guitar comes in and disrupts things a tad. That plays out for a pretty good length of time, until the percussion players change up a bit and everything else drops out but a guitar. Free form percussion rolls along against slow sustaining swells until things stop and a full band excursion begins. Nomadic guitars over an uptempo percussive base until things shift into psych freakout mode. I appreciate that they keep the psych freakout to a few minutes at the end, it helps the freakout retain its impact rather than when bands freak out for a half hour and things just get boring.
”Sister Kindness” takes up the B-side. This piece begins much more conventionally, with steady pounding on a drumkit and rock song structure then there is a strange sound and a brief a capella sing along ensues. I don’t know dude, but it was weird. Then almost as immediately yr shot into a tunneling free form jam force. Lead by fuzz guitar but sprinkled with bits of drums and acoustic guitar. Things transition into a rattling gypsy jam, with vocal loops popping out amidst the clutter. There is enough forward momentum to offset the randomness of the arrangement. Once again, there is another shift this time 6majik9 is thick and mostly electric, getting pretty close to “drone”. Then once more a transition back to an acoustic set-up. This one I’m not really feeling too much though, there is cello which I’m liking but also a really annoying reed instrument of some sort that I’m not liking so much. The section, unlike the previous ones, feels pretty aimless. A more delicate section takes over with sampled vocal babble, pretty flute accents, minimal drumming and sustaining low notes from an organ or synth. The totally angelic “voice setting” keyboard at the very end makes the journey worth it. This tape appears to be stitched together from various (live?) recordings made along “the east coast” between 2006 and 2007. They did good job putting the sides together with only a few sections lagging behind the rest.
While both tapes operate with different palettes, they are similar in that they are both roaming across the vast plains of half hour sides and doing a good job of it too. You know I’m down with the Ghost Brâmes crew, but 6majik9’s tape caught me a bit off guard in how much I liked it. Both tapes are a good place to start investigating either squad, especially with Abandon Ship’s low low prices (plus it seems both groups dabble in CD-rs a lot of the time, so I recommend grabbing them on cassette while you still can).

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Time Life – Double Blackberry [Meudiademorte]

Time Life is a project I’d been wanting to hear for a while and I finally got a hold of this one-sided c70 from the Meudiademorte label in Germany. The duo can be seen as a pared down version of Vanishing Voice, featuring members Heidi Diehl on guitar and vocals and G. Lucas Crane (also of Non-Horse) doing whatever he does with tapes. While, I’ve never been too big on the VV, something about the guitar/tapes combo intrigued me.
Crane and Diehl cover a lot of ground in their thirty-odd minutes. The tape begins solemnly, with a dark but airy repeating guitar figure. Strange, trembling sounds cascade in and out, which can only be the work of Crane. It’s a sparse arrangement but the atmosphere is thick. There is a counter melody on something that sounds like an unamplified electric guitar, which works really well against the round, electric tone of the main figure. The guitar fades a bit as a cassette cacophony takes its place, weird bits of delayed sound scrambling and brushing up against each other. The guitar comes back in a much more minimal mode as Diehl takes the mic, providing Grouper-esque vocals over a shuffling bed of tape loops. That, at first, sounds passively discordant but begins to sound more complete as it develops. It actually, strangely, reminds me of Portishead. Not in any sort of trip hoppy way, but it features a plaintive female voice drifting over a rustling of samples. Anyhow, the duo keep pushing forward, moving into more tripped out territory. An abstractly lush bit of guitar/tape interplay, which is eschewed much too quickly for my tastes. There is a brilliantly haunting part where a heavily reverbed guitar looms, sounding like thunder, as Crane casts almost dissonant violin type tones with his tapes. The fog drops, leaving Diehl’s lamenting voice almost completely unaccompanied, as a Skaters-esque loop of vocal or a tape or something drifts in the background, nearly duet-ing with Diehl. More tape noises and feedback pile on that loop, and Diehl begins improvised, wordless intonations. The repetitious cacophony gets to sounding ritualistic except for sharp quick blasts of noise occasionally exploding. When that bit runs it’s course there is a nice comedown with a soft, ambient loop of keyboard type sounds—though it may just be voice—and more cut up tape squelch. I am often extra critical of really long tracks, but Double Blackberry is an excellent example of when everything is done right. There is so much ground and sonic variation covered that it never feels long or dull; at the same time though, it doesn’t feel like a bunch of separate pieces smashed together, each point the duo hit upon is smoothly transitioned to and from. It as effortlessly assembled piece. It also sounds like the piece was probably recorded (and improvised?) live too, with no overdubbing that I can ascertain, which makes the piece all the more incredible. I’m hoping Time Life is becoming a regular thing, because this tape is the best stuff I’ve heard from both parties involved. It seems like I may get my wish as the duo has new/upcoming releases on Arbor, Blackest Rainbow, Not Not Fun and I imagine other labels as well.
This tape is still available from Meudiademorte, I’m not sure but I bet it’s limited with few copies remaining. It comes with a paint splattered label on a black tape, with a red sparkly 4x6 “folder” with involved, nearly invisible artwork printed on it and in a zippered plastic bag.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Auxiliary Out Radio Programme #6 (11/11/07)

“Actaeon” Axolotl Prophetic Ass (CD-r) [Chocolate Monk, 2007]

“Poco Da Morte” Tropa Macaca Marfim (LP) [Ruby Red, 2007]

“Side B” Armas Huutamo Aurinko on Kaunis Asia (7”) [Lal Lal Lal, 2006]
*played at 33 rpm

“Death’s Seed Runs From Her Thighs” Apple Snails Split with The Mighty Acts of God (CS) [DNT, 2007]

“Glass (excerpt)” Century Plants Sound System Sound (CD-r) [Tape Drift, 2007]

“Side B” Treetops Serene Dream (CS) [JK Tapes, 2007]

“Extra” Blue Sabbath Black Fiji Lazer Saber (CD-r) [JK Tapes, 2007]

“Cobweb Infinity” Helvetica is the Perfume of the City Swallowing Stars (CD-r) [La Belle Dame Sans Merci, 2007]

“My Night with the French Resistance” Black Forest/Black Sea Frannce compilation (3xCD-r) [La Belle Dame Sans Merci/Ruralfaune, 2007]

“1000 Shut Downs” Maggoted 1000 Shut Downs (3” CD-r) [Cut Hands, 2007]

“Side B” Tomutonttu Tomutonttu (LP) [Beta-Lactum Ring, 2007]

“Blood of Kings” Quintana Roo Temple of Self Decapitation (CS) [Dreamtime Taped Sounds, 2007]

*some technical problems happened during the show but I'll let you discover them on yr own...

mp3: Part 1 Part 2

Friday, November 9, 2007

JK Tapes Cassette Round-Up

In an effort to pour one out for my homie, I’m borrowing Outer Space Gamelan’s convenient “round-up” style review for this handful of newish and oldish JK Tapes, which unfortunately are all in varying states of sold out and long gone-ness. Still want to give props where props are due though.
Tape numero uno, is perpetrated by none other than Arbor label head Mike Pollard. His Treetops project is in the preliminary stages of blowing up into mega-stardom it seems, with releases on Ecstatic Peace!, Blackest Rainbow, DNT and Jelle Crama’s Zeikzak, as well as splits with Villa Valley and the Sick Llama-related Cygnus. Anyhow this tape is called Serene Dream and it begins with not quite droney guitar ruminations and a second guitar track that comes in sounding like a weird primitive flute. Pollard establishes a pretty strong sense of rhythm even before the entry percussive instruments. The rhythmic vibe is fleshed out with a drum smattering, coming in for a brief bout as the guitar is put on a second long infinite loop. The A-side ends there, setting up the main elements of the piece, guitar, drums and vocals. The bummer is the end click/tape flip kills the momentum. Once you get the spools turning on the B-side the sweetness returns though. Distant, distorted Skaters-style vocals take over and lead the track for a spell as free drumming returns. The final minutes of the tape feature drumkit/vocal interplay in the classic crescendo/decrescendo style. My favorite part of the tape is the comedown after the climax; this is the point were Pollard really locks into some magical zombie ritual sounds. My biggest complaint is that the single piece is split onto two sides. I much would have preferred a one-sided c-20 but whateva, ain’t my decision to make. This tape has piqued my interest a bit, not mindblowing as a whole but has some great moments. I’ll have to pay closer attention to this project, cause I could see it blossoming into something really great down the road (maybe it already has and I just haven’t heard it yet).
Moving on, we have Nataraja, a Warmer Milks side project of sorts. To be totally honest I’ve never dug the Warmer Milks style but I like this cassette. The name of the tape is Venetian Blinds, as is the 15 minute track on side A. Nataraja is the work of two people both playing double duty, Travis Shelton on guitar/electronics and Thad Watson on bass/percussion. A sustaining guitar dominates the audiosphere, sounding almost like an organ, as faraway cymbals clatter. This intro segment lasts for a few minutes until the guitar and percussion get a little more interactive. They roll along in a sort of half-climax mode, where they constantly sound like they’re on the verge of lashing out. I like the mellow outro, bringing to mind a bit simplified Gown just a tad in the style of playing. The guys have an odd sound because it’s somewhat based in the psych-improv style but really doesn’t sound psychedelic, the aesthetic is much more akin to drone. This makes it difficult to pinpoint the sound exactly, but I’d say something along the lines of guitar/drums improv’d drone minus the possible noisy connotations. The B-side has two tracks, the first of which is “Reservoir”. This piece is relatively mellow drone, with the guitar again front and center. There is bass (I think) and a nice chiming loop circulating that drifts in and out of the mix depending on the intensity/volume of the guitar. That’s only real problem I found; when the guitar gets too loud, it overwhelms and drowns out the other elements of the track. The second piece “Circadian Rhythm” is, as alluded to, quite rhythmic. The arrangement is pretty simple drums and percussive uses of the guitar, sometimes resulting in distorted feedback swells. Both guys sound like they’re trapped in a giant reverb tank which I like. The track is strange because it doesn’t change too much in demeanor but still transforms soundwise; it stays active consistently building in intensity to point that individual hits are indiscernible, just clattering clouds of feedback. I’m not sure if the project is a one-off or not but the tape is pretty nice and I’d say there is definite potential to develop the project further.
Exhibit C, is a split from Portland based sound manipulators, Acre and Honed Bastion. Never heard either before this tape, though I heard of Acre, who has had releases on Yarnlazer, DNT and others; Honed Bastion I know nothing about other than the dude also goes by the name Dead/Bird. There aren’t any markings on the sparkly silver sprayed tape but I think Acre takes the A-side. I’m having some trouble writing about it. The piece has a strangely soothing but mechanical nature, based on a low throbbing drone and static ping-ponging across the left and right channels. The trouble comes with the fact that the piece never really changes too much. If I really listen hard I can detect some subtle movement/manipulation of the repeated loops. It’s a piece that to really get something out of it I had to put on the headphones. I’ve liked the piece a bit more each time I’ve listened but I’m still not feeling it 100%. I’ve never really been able to get lost in it, though all these soft machine pulsations are still doing a hypnotic number on my brain. On the flip, Honed Bastion shows his stuff. The piece is much more arrhythmic than the previous side, built around stuttering distorted tones, feedback and other kinds of effect wizardry. The track is very textured; lots of very jagged, bristly sounds. I wish the stuttery-ness was toned down a bit though the track but it drops out after a while so no problem. The placid “breakdown” actually ends up sounding a little like Warmth to me, with washes of digital noise, using silence as a weapon. Somewhere down the line, there are a few singular swells of elektronotes and a keyboard sample or something slides in at the very end. There is a pause and then a heavy and heavily auto-panned bout of noise rules yr ears. There is no info on the insert so I don’t know if it’s part of the first track or a new one or what. Either way it’s pretty satisfying to have a more composed bit of roughnecking after the previous fragmentation.
Our grand finale is Lazy Rivers by the Horse Head-related, Tan Dollar. I’m not sure what the title refers to, but my guess is those “rivers” at waterparks you can float on in those big colorful intertubes. Weren’t those called lazy rivers? Anyway, it’s weird to name yr album after a waterpark attraction but I wouldn’t put it past these guys. This is total weirdo music. The first part of Side A is full of hollow drum hits and a way too phased/modulated guitar. They just jam and groove along sloppily as two dudes do mildly annoying stream of conscious rants a la Elisa from Magik Markers, but intentionally goofy. Things get more frantic for the next two “songs”, raucous pounding and weird effected vocals. The vocal effect thing continues on for the next part against more jumbled guitar (bass?), drums, wind chimes and occasionally fingersnaps. The vocal fx actually are a plus because you can’t discern what the dude is saying, he just has a weird echoey presence in the track. Side B has more of the same, sloppy drum/guitar riffage and annoying vocals by whomever that dude is. Seriously, these guys are way too in love with this chorus/flanger whatever it this pedal of theirs is. It sounds like the guys only have one and the vocalist and guitar trade it back and forth. Anyway, the second track on the B side is one of the best songs on here with excellent music and even the vocals aren’t too bad except for that damn modulation pedal he’s singing through. Track 3(?) is just creepy detuned vocal slurs. They bust out the bass for the next track, giving the track a grooving back bone as someone sounds like they’re playing the kitchen sink and the “singer dude” is telling some story through a delayed microphone. The next track is actually pretty sweet, rumbling free drums and wisely wordless vocals circling round. That is until “lyrics” come back and it’s ended with an utterly stupid monologue (which you can read here). The vocals range from (nearly) unbearable to just another element of weirdness from Tan Dollar, understandably the songs that fit into the latter category are the stronger ones. I don’t know, it’s a little bit like Horse Head, but like a version that only knows how to fuck around. The musical part of the crew turns out some cool parts which makes me wish all the more the vocalist would ditch the mic and do something else (preferably play an instrument).
So there you have it, all tapes as I mentioned are sold out from JK Tapes but some are still available at distros (like here). It’s fun to see the evolution of the JK art style from the black & white printed inserts to the current ‘Heavy/Fuck It tapes filtered through MS Paint’ aesthetic. Can’t wait to see what Peter rolls out with next.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Warmth – Warmth [Arbor]

Warmth is a project I’ve been a little on the fence about. I’ve heard a handful of releases and while I found them intriguing none of them really stuck. Until now that is. Warmth is an LP reissue/remixed/edited version of a self-titled(?) CD-r on the now deceased X Died Enroute Y label. The CD-r featured a rare duo formation, consisting of Warmth main man Steev Thompson and Branden Diven of Quilts and a bunch of other cool things. So anyhow, let’s get this review poppin’
Side A starts out quietly with a submerged glistening something. There is a rhythmic crackle that I can’t figure out if it’s part of the music or a skuf on the LP. Intentional or not, it adds a steady forward movement that works out real nicely. That submerged glistening synth or whatever it is rises in volume and drops. The volume swelling and tapering becomes a motif throughout the side. What sounds like a heavily reverbed guitar comes in with other kinds of looped electronics and subsides. A lush synth swell emerges for maybe fifteen seconds and abruptly fades. Then the guitar comes back for a moment and then the synth with a more fleshed out, ethereal, echoing ice caverns bit which wanes revealing a gusty whining wind type sound. After comes one of my favorite parts a brief bit of thick, almost shuffling looped two note synth melody. Low in the mix, there is something that sounds like a faraway church choir, while static white noise and mild mannered feedback dance and crawl over top. The piece is incredibly hard to pin down. Every time a beautiful loop or melody materializes it slinks away almost immediately, leaving the quiet base warble. There is a crescendo at the end which is really fantastic, and much more extended than any other the other parts. It builds into a gorgeous cacophony, ultimately receding back into the ether while a lone guitar feeds back and a synth wobbles on its last legs until the end groove. The piece is strangely composed, the continuous rising and falling of a slew of sonic fragments. It reminds me a bit of those old haunted house rides; not in the sense that its “scary” or “ghoulish”, but rather that you are taken on a ride through a bunch of short-lived events that together assemble a unified experience, but without direct transition between them. Sometimes fragmentation or holding onto an idea too briefly before moving on can be frustrating to listen to. Somehow though, Warmth makes it compelling. Maybe it’s because you want keep revisiting it and take the ride again or perhaps it’s just because the fragments all sound so good. It’s probably both and more. A very cool side.
The B side has a rhythmic crackle as well, which makes me wonder if it’s intentional or if my stylus is messed up (hope not). It begins with a slow burning drone as some Medroxy Progesterone Acetate-esque rustling white noise enters. The piece moves in a style not unlike the first side, but a bit more subtly. There is a strange alien transmission halfway through, though most of the time the track glides along on glacial tones. That is until some shrieking echoing guitar or synth comes roaring onto the scene. The placid atmosphere is shattered by a downpour of exploding feedback which sticks around for a bit until fading into looped organ tones. Which, of course, fade too, as swirling jet streams and moaning guitar swells take the track to its final conclusion. As mentioned, the piece works in a similar way as the first but a bit sparser and more subtly, I prefer the first I think but Side B is a cool little number in itself. One note though, my bass speaker is pretty much to the point of coughing up blood, so I can’t discern much of the low end business that’s going on, it sounds like it would be pretty cool though if I could hear it.
So Warmth remains as enigmatic as ever. This is a really great release and makes me want to hear more of/revisit their other stuff. I’ve yet to come across anything quite like the project, which, at the very least, makes it worth delving deeper into their discography. I say this every time but the LP comes packaged in Arbor’s trademark classy and capable aesthetic, with a printed/screen-printed cover by Roy Tatum and Mike Pollard and also a 8.5x11 insert by Steev. The crowning achievement/sweetness/whatever is the cool citrus-y creamsicle vinyl and a-shade-darker-than-lime green screen-printed labels. It’s a total package and still available from Arbor but limited to 300, so get it already.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Black Monk – Flowstone [Arbor/Not Not Fun]

Black Monk was a duo consisting of Roy Tatum (Changeling, Quintana Roo, the Buried Valley label) and someone else whose name I cannot ascertain. They kept a pretty low profile only releasing two cassettes over their lifetime, one on Buried Valley and one on Maim & Disfigure. But now the crew is given the “box set” treatment. While Flowstone is an LP, it collects the out of print tapes and offers unreleased material just like those expensive box sets in the locked glass cases, but way more affordable and with 100% more analog sweetness.
Side A consists of the previously released material. It starts with “Murmur” which apparently collects the entire cassette of the same name. Black Monk establish their sound right from the get-go. Heavy, low-end drones and free/tribal drumming. There are no credits, but the drones sound like they're coming from guitar. Not e-bow style though, slow singe strums letting the drone swell and taper based around a few chords. While the guitarwork is pretty simple and repetitive, it’s effective. It also balances the hyperactivity of the drumming, which is a constant, though varied, barrage. Whoever the drummer is does a good job of not falling into the standard role of drone drummer (i.e. basic, measured drum hits) or the role of rock drummer sitting in on a drone session, which always ends terribly. I don’t know very much about (describing) drumming, but the guy moves from frantic to emphatic rather easily. The drums are mixed pretty low in comparison to the dronemaker, which gives the whole track a really odd disembodied vibe. The audible but utterly indecipherable “background” noises going on certainly help that cause as well.
The second half of side A is an untitled track originally released on the V cassette on Buried Valley. Immediately, it establishes a totally haunted, wobbly seasick vibe. Unlike “Murmur”, the guys are working entirely in unison on this one; forming like Voltron to create some of the most effortlessly eerie, pulsating drone I’ve come across. It’s much harder to pick up on individual elements than in the previous track. There is a main loop that sounds to me almost like a slowed down locomotive whistle. That loop is surrounded my heavy fuzz fog, and various subtle changes occur throughout. There isn't much (any?) drum presence that I can hear, sometimes it sounds like there might be some buried under the miles of murk and other times it sounds like there is none at all. Maybe you can tell me. Sweet track though.
The B side is the previously unreleased title jam. “Flowstone”, in some ways, is a marriage of the two styles on the other side. The drums are pushed to the fore-front. Showing off some serious free jazz chops. There is expansive, low-end smog that coats the rest of the track, providing a subtle, groaning bed for the drummer to shred some heads. The dynamic between the two elements is interesting because the drone is pretty much unchanging; however, depending what the drums are doing, it kind of takes on those characteristics. I'm not sure, I think there might be two guys jamming on the drums. There is no way a mere mortal could pull this stuff off all by himself. Maybe it’s possible, but there is frenzied cymbal bashing and intense tribal tom-tom torture at the same time that I just can’t fathom coming from one set of hands. I really dig how the fiery, primal percussive assaults offset the cyclical drone cloud. You get the best of both worlds, the raw, physical high of witnessing someone just kick the shit out of their instrument and the buzzing, hypnosis of looped fuzz infinity.
The LP is pretty well organized, in that each successive piece takes it up a notch (there I go sounding like Emeril again). They all have the same DNA, but each takes a separate sonic approach. It’s a bummer Black Monk is done for, but maybe the release of Flowstone will warrant a reunion tour, any takers?
The LP comes in typical classy Arbor/Not Not Fun fashion. A stark design lay out, a fold out crazed-scribble poster by Black Monk and black labels on a black LP, which is the coolest black vinyl has ever looked. It’s like a twelve inch black hole. It’s sold out on the Not Not Fun end, but Arbor still has copies. You know what to do.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Lanterns – Lughnasadh [Peasant Magik]

Lanterns, for those who don’t know, are a trio of UK basement dwellers. They seem to operate with one foot in the serene drone bucket and the other in a jangling free-folk bucket (what kind of lame analogy is that?). This CD-r on Philadelphia’s Peasant Magik label is, if I’m not mistaken, the group’s first stateside release after tapes and CD-rs on Sloow Tapes, Blackest Rainbow, First Person and other European buddies.
So anyhow, Lugnasadh has 3 tracks just like Lanterns got members. The first is the awesomely titled “Inectoplasmic Blues”. I dig the ragged arrangement on this one; there are a bunch of elements on this: a couple guitars, various percussion (drums, cymbals, shakers), flute and some vocal coos and moans. Aesthetically, the track is similar to the ilk of 6majik9 or Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood, but with a slightly muffled quality. While retaining that fragmented aesthetic though, the group keeps everything moving in a surprisingly focused direction. Also, at certain points different elements appear at the forefront, as if they all rotated, taking turns standing closest to the microphone. I’m not sure how they did that (mixing maybe?) but it’s a cool little effect.
“Suma” follows and skews to the more dronier side of things. Beginning with a single high-pitched whine and incorporating, bit by bit, other sustained tones, a garbled vocal sample, subtle additions on guitar, a simple, muted drum pattern and something that sounds bowed but it may just be a keyboard or something. The whole ordeal is pretty placid and hypnotic, and floats along on the fluttery sustain of organ tones. Really easy to get lost in. Especially the insanely brief and insanely beautiful guitar outro. Come on Lanterns! The track could have run for at least another three minutes on that little baby alone and you gave me about 20 seconds worth. So other than the track ending much too soon, it’s a real nice piece.
The final track, “Mong” is a good deal longer than the previous two. It begins similarly to “Suma” but focuses more on low frequency guitar sustain and vague, disembodied vocals. There are strange almost squelching type sounds poking through in the background as well. Lanterns create a very pleasant fog, almost like the time at night when your body is getting tired and ready for bed and you feel peaceful in your submission to sleep. Maybe that’s not how nights are for other people, but, for me, “Mong” has that same restless calm. The track builds gradually as hushed cymbal clatter tiptoes in. I’m wondering if the squelching sounds from the beginning are actually heavily effected cymbals. Eventually a more formal drumbeat is composed taking the track to its final fadeout. All in all, it’s a nice trance maybe a bit like a less acoustic GHQ or the most singularly sloshed (VxPxC) moments.
Lugnasadh is still available from Peasant Magik and comes in a slimline snapcase with wraparound artwork by Mel (Crowley?) from Ashtray Navigations and a pasted-on insert inside. Limited to 100 so make you’re move.

Auxiliary Out Radio Programme #5 (11/4/07)

”Side B” Shepherds Bush Babies (7”) [DNT, 2007]

”Moctezuma River” Quetzolcoatl Vast Eternity Bridges (CS) [Abandon Ship, 2007]

“Bristlang Delph” John Clyde Evans The Smell of the Burning Empire (CS one-sided) [Sloow Tapes, 2007]

”Flowstone” Black Monk Flowstone (LP) [Arbor/Not Not Fun, 2007]

”Ruin Hill” Droughter Beast Growth (CD-r) [Cut Hands, 2007]

”In One Room” Foot Foot JK Tapes compilation (2xCS) [JK Tapes, 2007]

”Peoples Parties” Peoples Parties Peoples Parties (CD-r) [Cut Hands, 2007]

”Doper” Homostupids The Intern (LP) [Parts Unknown, 2007]

”Side A” Warmth Warmth (LP) [Arbor, 2007]

”Suma” Lanterns Lughnasadh (CD-r) [Peasant Magik, 2007]

”Vision of Land/Journey to Land/Dawn Vision/Earth, Sun” Dolphins of East Belgium Split with Edgar Wappenhalter (CS) [Cauliflower Dreams, 2007]

”Speaker” Shearing Pinx JK Tapes compilation (2xCS) [JK Tapes, 2007]

”The Feel of It” Child Pornography JK Tapes compilation (2xCS) [JK Tapes, 2007]

mp3: Part 1 Part 2

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Maggoted – 1000 Shut Downs [Cut Hands]/Yellow Swans & Ashtray Navigations – Psychedelic Used Car Lot Blues [Memoirs of an Aesthete]

Here’s a pair of Yellow Swans related 3” CD-rs, the first by Maggoted on the Netherlands’ Cut Hands label and the second is a live collaboration by Yellow Swans and Phil Todd’s Ashtray Navigations project and is released by Todd’s Memoirs of an Aesthete imprint.
Cutting right to the chase, Maggoted is a duo of Pete Swanson and Robert Mayson (of Australia’s Grey Daturas) and 1000 Shut Downs is their second release as far as I know. And it’s gooood. Swanson’s non-Swans projects are always pretty sweet but I think Maggoted might be my favorite. The single track on this 3” is dense and heavy but thoughtfully, sometimes even delicately, composed. Similar to the YS track from the Goslings split, but even more monolithic and black hole collapsing. The track begins rather subtly with static, a muffled percussive loop and other drones. It creeps like death for a little while and gradually builds. It is hard to fully discern everything that is going on, but there is lots of it. At one point the track just explodes with Mayson’s guitar (I think) and manipulated mixer feedback. They ride the viscous waves to glory, somehow creating an abstractly rhythmic pulse as everything crumbles around them. A total sonic batholith, and totally rapturous. I wish the release was a bit longer but it is a 3incher and the dudes totally have “main” bands and roll in different hemispheres; so I can excuse the lack material and appreciate stuff they have made, especially when it’s this good. And sorry for overdoing that whole italics thing too.
The awesomely titled Psychedelic Used Car Lot Blues, features Pete Swanson and GMS along with “Skipper Todd” and Mad Mel Crowley on clarinet. It’s a live recording from Sheffield dating back almost two years ago. It begins with feedback and some electronically manipulated drums courtesy of Todd. The clattering of the drums and the electronic drones work well together but, unfortunately guitar is overly prevalent in the mix and it kinda works against the rest of the arrangement. I’m not sure who’s playing it but it’s a little too traditionally “psych-rock” to fit the style that’s going down. After a little while it wises up and there is a just beautiful cacophony of sound. Electric frequencies coming from every which way, drums being obliterated and strangled gasps of clarinet. A relentless beat emerges first coming from the drums and then joined by the electronic muck. It’s very rare that you hear Yellow Swans with live drums but it works pretty well here. Some drummers kill noise/drone sessions, but here it’s definitely a positive, adding some visceral urgency. Around two thirds through the track the drums drop out, and the track turns into a free-drone guitar session. That sounds real nice too, and the track simmers marvelously as some manipulated percussive noises creep back in. It’s a weird, half gradual, half skronk comedown that the track ends on as the dudes are met with applause and cheers and some guy asking “That was a good jam, huh?” Indeed, very much so. I tend to be a Yellow Swans purist (i.e. I’d rather hear them in non-collabo mode), but this little disc is making me question that a bit. It actually sounds pretty close to what you’d imagine the artists would sound like together, Ashtray Navigation’s psyche freakout run through the Yellow Swans’ figurative whatever-it-is-that-sounds-so-fucking-good-every-single-time pedal.
Both 3inchers come totally recommended. 1000 Shut Downs is limited to 80 and still available from Cut Hands and various American distros (try here). Psychedelic Used Car Lot Blues is limited to 100, though I’m not sure as to the availability (I got it at a Yellow Swans show), you can probably dig it up somewhere if you look hard enough.